In this week’s Parade, on the cusp of their just-launched new live comedy tour, Steve Martin and Martin Short talk dirty Scrabble, funny business and secrets of their three-decade friendship. “One of us is gregarious and filled with life, and the other saps the energy of out any room he’s in,” says Short. “But I won’t tell you who!”
Jokes & Jabs. The new live comedy show—dubbed Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t—follows the format of their successful previous live collaborations, which last year was turned into an Emmy-nominated Netflix special. The two dear friends of nearly 35 years joke and jest with each other, sing and play music, and stir up other delightful onstage shenanigans. But they stay away from political humor. “That’s too divisive,” says Martin. “It’s not interesting to make the audience cheer or boo—except at Marty.”
Desperate Times. They first met on the set of the 1986 movie comedy ¡Three Amigos! and kept in touch over countless dinners, family vacations together—and one particularly memorable game of dirty Scrabble. A “desperate” Short, recalls Martin, passed him a note that expressed he was willing to do almost anything “for a Q or an E.”
Movie Memories. Both actors launched their careers on TV and went on to even more success in movies. But neither is very interested in the big screen anymore. “I lost interest in movies at exactly the same time movies lost interest in me,” says Martin, who starred in comedies including The Jerk, Roxanne, Bowfinger, Parenthood, The Pink Panther and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Short turned down the Jeff Daniels role in Dumb and Dumber. “They were offering lots of money,” he says. “But it was grosser than anything I had ever done. It wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Comedy Roots. Martin grew up in Southern California and got his first job selling guidebooks at nearby Disneyland, then worked at Merlin’s Magic Shop. “I was not born funny, but I was born to love comedy,” he says. As a teenager, he was doing comedy shows at Knott’s Berry Farm. Short, one of five siblings in his family in Ontario (where “everyone was funny,” he says), got into comedy improv shortly after college—which altered his original plans to become a doctor.